One of the biggest decisions for tourists visiting Stockholm for the first time is whether or not to drive in the city. There are many benefits to renting a car to get around the city, but at the same time, there are many considerations to factor in before firming up that decision. Read on for those considerations and tips for travelers considering driving in Stockholm, Sweden.
Many of the travel websites advise travelers against driving in Stockholm. They advise that the city has a top-notch public transportation system. But what they don’t tell potential tourists to the city is that driving and parking in Stockholm is actually much easier than many other popular European destinations. This is because Swedish drivers tend to be much less aggressive than in other major European capital cities, but also because traffic is not extremely heavy at any time of the day, making it easier for travelers to drive and navigate in a new place.
There are some basic rules to keep in mind for a first time traveler driving in Stockholm. First, drivers must always have their headlights on when driving, even during the day. Next, pedestrians always have the right of way in marked pedestrian crossings, so be on the lookout for people in or near crosswalks and be prepared to stop. On roads with a speed limit posted at 30 km/h and 50 km/h, buses will always have the right of way over cars, so be prepared to yield to a bus at higher speeds at all times.
In Swedish towns and cities, it is illegal to sit in an idling car for more than one minute and if caught doing so, you can be heavily fined. This law was passed in order to maintain good air quality and to generally protect the environment. Travelers are often cited for this violation simply because they can’t read the signs. Just know that you cannot sit in a parked car that is idling for more than a minute in Stockholm or other cities.
If traveling to Sweden in the winter months, know that the studded winter tires are required from December 1 to March 31. Studded winter tires are optional between October 1 and April 15, but they must be removed from vehicles by April 16 so as not to damage the roadways. Swedish winters can be very snowy and icy and those not comfortable driving in those conditions should avoid a trip during those months so as not to create a hazard for other drivers and so that the trip isn’t ruined by not being able to see the sights because of discomfort driving in snow or ice.
For those travelers who enjoy a drink out in a foreign city, it’s important to know that the Swedish authorities are very strict on drinking and driving in and around the city. In Sweden, the legal limit for driving after drinking is just 0.2%, which is the equivalent of one small drink with a meal. Anyone caught drinking and driving at above that maximum level can be put in jail. In short, when driving in Stockholm, avoid drinking at all and if you want to celebrate a night out, call a taxi or take public transportation.
If you are planning to travel into the city center when driving in Stockholm, know that there is a congestion toll in the city’s inner core. This congestion charge is applied to vehicles registered in Sweden travelling into the core between 6:30am and 6:29pm. Toll cameras at the crossover point record a vehicle’s registration and send an invoice to the vehicle’s owner on a monthly basis.
Parking in Stockholm can be a bit of a challenge, but not as bad as many other cities. The city is split into six zones and the cost for on-street parking is based on which zone you are within when you park. It is often less expensive to find a parking garage or if possible, city hotel that has free parking.
With a bit of research and preplanning, travelers to Stockholm can enjoy the freedom of having a vehicle, allowing the freedom to explore and enjoy the city on their own time and their own terms.